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Headless horsemen: The state of the Manning-less Colts

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Recent posts by Arthur Arkush

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Posted Oct. 12, 2011 @ 11:57 a.m. ET
By Arthur Arkush

One of the NFL's elite teams for more than a decade, the Indianapolis Colts have arrived at a crossroads.

The man most responsible for taking them to such great heights, QB Peyton Manning, whose near immortality the first 13 years of his career dictated the way the Colts constructed their roster, has shown he is human.

In late July, sandwiched between his second and third neck surgeries in the past 20 months, Manning signed the most lucrative contract in NFL history — a five-year, $90 million deal that ensures he spends his entire career with one organization.

Manning's neck pain has prevented him from playing in a game since then, halting his iron-man streak at 208 consecutive starts (227, including playoffs). It is unlikely he will return this season, though the Colts will hold his roster spot until forced to make a move. As injury-struck as they have been, that time could arrive sooner than later.

Three weeks before the start of the season, the Colts lured 38-year-old QB Kerry Collins out of retirement to fill in for Manning. The reason for the last-second decision was the organization's lack of trust in QB Curtis Painter, the club's sixth-round pick in 2009, who served as Manning's backup the past two seasons. Previous to Collins' acquisition, the Colts had invested next-to-nothing in Manning's backups because, well, until now, it was like throwing money down a black hole.

"If you can look into the future, you can plan accordingly," said former Colts head coach Tony Dungy, who led Indianapolis to its only Super Bowl victory following the 2006 season. "But without being able to look into the future, I can tell you what the team's thoughts were when I was there. The main goal was that we were trying to win the Super Bowl. We could have spent $3-4 million on a backup quarterback, but as close as the team was to the salary cap, we decided we were better off paying the machinery surrounding Peyton. So we decided to pay Dallas (Clark) and Reggie (Wayne) and (Joseph) Addai and roll the dice with a guy we knew had not missed a game in 13 years. We thought the money was better-spent being divvied up re-signing those guys.


To read the rest of this story on the Colts, which includes a take on what the team might be thinking about the QB position long-term, order a copy of the current issue of Pro Football Weekly. In the latest edition of PFW you will also find our tribute to football icon Al Davis and a review of the surprisingly effective Redskins defense.

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